Your teenage years might be long gone, but if you suffered from acne during them, the scars might remain. Those scars might not make you look or feel your best and can make you look older than your years. Even if it’s been years since your last breakout, you have a few options when it comes to treating acne scars as an adult.
The treatment that’s best for you depends on the severity of your scars and a few other factors. Scar removal isn’t something to rush into and patience might be needed as you wait for results. Dr. Jessica Kulak at The Naderi Center is happy to discuss your concerns and direct you to the most appropriate treatment option.
Understanding Acne Scars
While almost everyone gets a pimple at some point during their lifetime, people who suffer from severe acne seem to have been dealt a bad hand. Severe cases of acne are often not only visually obvious, they’re also painful and are more likely to leave scars behind. The scars can take several forms.
For example, atrophic scars result when some tissue has been lost from the skin. An icepick scar is an example of an atrophic scar. Quite simply, it looks as though the person’s skin was punctured with a sharp pick. A boxcar shaped scar is another example of an atrophic scar. It’s a wider, deeper scar than an icepick.
Hypertrophic acne scars are the opposite of atrophic. The scars are most often a raised or bumpy area on the face. They typically occur near the nose or chin.
A few factors can make acne scars worse. Sun exposure can make scars more visible, as the UV rays from the sun encourage the production of melanocytes, or the cells responsible for pigmentation. Extra melanocytes can make the scars look darker.
If you mother told you not to pick at your acne or pimples, she was right. Popping pimples can make scars worse, as irritating the area increases inflammation and damages the collagen that is needed to help the area fill in after the pimple heals.
Scar Treatment 1: Laser
If your acne scars have not faded on their own, laser skin resurfacing is an effective treatment option. An ablative laser, such as CO2 or Erbium, helps reduce the appearance of scars by removing the top layer of skin. Laser resurfacing works on both hypertrophic and atrophic scars.
Laser skin resurfacing to remove acne scars isn’t without its drawbacks. You might need several treatments to get the effect you want. The treatment can be painful and does require anesthesia. If redness in the scar area is an issue, laser resurfacing might not be the best option, as it doesn’t help remove or reduce redness. In many cases, it takes about a week for skin to heal.
Scar Treatment 2: Chemical Peel
Like laser skin resurfacing, a chemical peel can help reduce or remove scarring by removing the top layer of skin. A peel can take place in a doctor’s office or at a hospital, depending on how deep it is. Typically, patients seeking treatment for acne scars need a deeper peel, such as an 88% phenol peel for best results.
If you decide a deep peel is the treatment option for you, you will generally be sedated during the treatment. The peel can make your skin a few shades lighter, and isn’t recommended if you have a darker skin. For best results, you’ll need to follow your doctor’s directions exactly for the first few weeks, cleaning the skin as directed. The peel will leave your skin red for several months.
Scar Treatment 3: Dermabrasion
Dermabrasion, or the removal of the outer layer of skin using a wire brush, is another option for removing acne scars. Depending on how many scars you have or how extensive the scarring is, you might need to be sedated for the procedure.
After the treatment, your skin will bleed. A scab should form over the area and new skin will grow over the course of about a week. It’s important that you not pick at the scab as it heals.
Scar Treatment 4: Surgery
Surgery is an option for scar removal as well. One surgical technique used by Dr. Kulak is Z-plasty. The goal of z-plasty is to make the scar less visible by creating additional irregularities on the skin. The scar then blends into the skin better by fitting into the natural folds.
Another surgical option used to reduce acne scars is a punch excision. During a punch excision, the surgeon typically removes the scars from the skin. Once the scar area is cut away, the healthy skin is stitched together, making it look as though the scar was never there. Punch excision is often used for deeper scars. A new scar will form where the skin is sewn together, which a surgeon can treat with laser resurfacing.
Acne scars don’t have to hide your beauty. If you want to find out how to reduce or remove your scars, Dr. Jessica Kulak can help. For a consultation with the board certified facial plastic surgeon, call her office at (301) 222-2020 in Maryland or (703) 481-0002 in Virginia, or fill out the contact form.